ben watt

Review: 30 Years Later Ben Watt Hasn’t Lost His Finesse On New ‘Hendra’ LP

It’s been over 30 years since Ben Watt released a solo album, North Marine Drive. In that time, he has had a more varied career than most of his contemporaries. As half of alt-folk darlings turned dance pop superstars Everything But the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, Watt elevated electronica to a fresh level of mainstream viability with songs like “Missing” and “Wrong” long before anyone dreamed up “EDM.” Further immersing himself in beats, Watt became a DJ, producer, remixer, and promoter, ultimately launching his own party Lazy Dog, and record label, Buzzin’ Fly – check his classic take on Sade’s “By Your Side” or his collaboration with Estelle on “Pop a Cap in Yo Ass” for primers on his template-setting deep house touch. Like Tracey, Ben is also an author and has written two well-received memoirs. On a heavier note, he has also dealt with an autoimmune disease, the recent deaths of his father and sister, and found himself at a mid-life crossroads – “a pop musician in an electronic world.”

All of these experiences have been distilled eloquently through Watt’s imagination into not one, but two touching and personal works: his most recent memoir, Romany and Tom (about his creative parents’ complex relationship, out in June on Bloomsbury Press) and his new album, Hendra (out April 29, on Unmade Road). The concurrent release of both the book and the album provide a stereo glance into Watt’s life and creativity. Here’s a man, a husband, father, artist who has spent much of his life in the spotlight, just as his parents had aspired to in their day. The echoes of history may haunt Watt, but in his music and books, Ben has wrestled his way through the thickets with earnest and rhythmic writing that is confessional without feeling solipsistic, poignant without feeling contrived, terse without feeling emaciated, and revelatory without feeling exploitative. His ability to slip subtle twists into unexpected moments in his narratives and lyrics creates hooks that sink into and bait one’s own memories. His knack for juxtaposing details of inner and outer worlds is a case study in the tried and true axiom “make the personal universal.”

On the album, Hendra, Ben’s finesse with both dance and rock music manifests in his skillful meshing of tropes and choice of partners - electronic producer Ewan Pearson adds a crystalline digital sonic sheen, Suede’s Bernard Butler adds some analog pop muscle; and David Gilmour’s slide guitar imparts a dreamy grandeur to “The Levels”. “Nathaniel” is a swinging up-tempo ditty inspired by a post-mortem graffiti tribute he rode past in Oregon. Using sunny, ‘70s West Coast-style vocals and guitar, Watt crafts a meditation on how the tragedy of strangers becomes political theater, albeit in a manner that is blissfully more palatable than this description could ever. On “Matthew Arnold’s Field”, a keyboard and vocal driven ballad, he describes scattering his father’s ashes in a deeply symbolic environment without losing sight of other people around him, among them a couple in the thick of mundane life, having tea and eating sandwiches. The permeability between life and death is also explored on “The Gun” which tackles the controversial theme of violence without hopping on a soap box, instead highlighting the ironic horror weapons advocates experience when the karmic woods come to their gated McCastles, as it were. The title track “Hendra” has a mystical, David Crosby vibe to it. On “Young Man’s Game”, a bar room sing-along waiting to be tapped, Watt muses on aging and his place in the (music) world as he’s evolved from a multitasking boy Midas to a wizened elder – one pretty content with lot in life.

At times Hendra evokes the blue-eyed soul, pastoral folk and electronic noodling of boom bap aficionado Scritti Politti or Scottish troubadour King Creosote who also delved into electronic pop with Jon Hopkins. In other places, it invokes Neil Young, John Lennon, Santana. Through it all, however, it’s Watt’s story and he tells it his way. "Words, beats and notes - it's all we have. It's just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, 'Hendra' just feels right," Watt has said. We couldn’t agree more.

Watt will be doing a short tour of the US in June. Check his site for details.
http://benwatt.com/dates

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LeBron James: “The Most Disrespected Person On Earth Is The Black Woman”

LeBron James shared a powerful statement in reaction to the lack of justice in the murder of Breonna Taylor, and promised to do his part to bring about change.

“The most DISRESPECTED person on Earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!!! Love to you Queens all over this country and beyond,” James tweeted on Wednesday (Sept. 23) along with a shout out to some of the women in his family.

The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond! 👸🏽👸🏾👸🏿❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 24, 2020

Grandma Freda, Gloria Marie, Savannah Rachael, Zhuri Ann Marie Nova I LOVE YOU MY BLACK QUEENS more than life itself!! 👸🏾🖤🖤🖤🖤

— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 24, 2020

Mema Brinson, Deidra Norris, Pam Walker, Tanesha Walker, Chanelle Walker, Brenda Weems, Caddie Powers I LOVE YOU Queens!!! 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤

— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 24, 2020

As previously reported, a grand jury decided not to charge officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove for killing Taylor during a police raid. Hankinson, a former officer of the Louisville Metro Police Department, faces three counts of wanton endangerment, but the charges were not related to Taylor being killed.

Collin Kaepernick also took to Twitter with a few thoughts: “The white supremacist institution of policing that stole Breonna Taylor’s life from us must be abolished for the safety and well being of our people.”

Read more reactions below.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I am just at a loss for words.... 💔

A post shared by Kelly Rowland (@kellyrowland) on Sep 23, 2020 at 5:23pm PDT

Dear Breonna,

I’m so sorry the people in power have failed to get this right. You deserve so much more. Your life mattered. You deserved the bright future that was ahead of you. We will continue to say your name. We will continue to fight in your name. #BreonnaTaylor pic.twitter.com/31M3ndOloK

— DWade (@DwyaneWade) September 24, 2020

They never get it right and that doesn't make it hurt any less. Breonna Taylor should still be with us and her family deserved justice today. Tired of this shit.

— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) September 23, 2020

Bulls--- decision!!! BLACK LIVES MATTER!!! Cannot be said enough times. https://t.co/HOrDQzHJ0d

— Viola Davis (@violadavis) September 23, 2020

Amen 🙏🏽 shit is sooo sad and discouraging. https://t.co/2ex3OImFpv

— iamcardib (@iamcardib) September 23, 2020

Another innocent black life gone with no consequences!! Breonna Taylor was 26, a daughter, a cousin, a friend, a girlfriend, an ER technician, an AMERICAN. 💔

— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 24, 2020

Understand what that truly means because Accountability needs to occur in a new way. Word is Bond to the Father. Let’s not be sorry, Let’s correct this fucking Error. Rest Easy Queen #BREONNATAYLOR pic.twitter.com/dzWTtV90Zl

— Busta Rhymes (@BustaRhymes) September 24, 2020

#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor#JusticeForBreonnaTaylor pic.twitter.com/eURn5iMQrl

— COMMON (@common) September 23, 2020

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Kanye West Says He’s Giving G.O.O.D. Music Artists Back What He Owns Of Their Masters

After nearly two weeks of speaking out against Universal Music Group and Sony/ATV, Kanye West has promised to do his part to help artists on his G.O.O.D. Music label imprint.

“I’m giving all Good music artist[s] back the 50% share I have of their masters,” West tweeted on Wednesday (Sept. 23). Big Sean, who signed with West’s label more than a decade ago, thanked West for the gesture.

Thank you!!! This would help so much 🙏🏾 https://t.co/6yR3fAKlwB

— Sean Don (@BigSean) September 23, 2020

The move comes as West spoke with Billboard to further discuss his plans to “free artists” from oppressive record deals.

“The desired effect will only be achieved when every artist owns their masters,” said West. “I’m Team ‘Free Artists.’ I’m committed to doing whatever is necessary so artists own their own copyrights. The response is awesome because everyone knows this is a broken system that needs to be fixed. Currently, artists take advances to make records and yet when they repay those advances the record company still owns the records.”

West said that he is in talks with Universal, and their parent company Vivendi, but reiterated that he wants to fix “everyone’s situation,” along with his own. “My brand and influence goes way beyond just music and that of course is meaningful to Vivendi, as it is to Adidas and many other conglomerates. If that helps me be able to help free all artists, of course I’m going to use it,” West explained.

“You only need to look back to the early days of the record companies and see how predatory they were,” he continued. “Old execs admit it. The contracts are almost the same now. The shape, the terminology... And yet, in that time we moved to a completely digital age. Has the attitude of the labels and the structure in which our music moves on our side changed to that degree? No, it has not. You’re locked in; once you’re locked in you can ask no questions.”

Despite his feelings on UMG and Sony/ATV, West hasn’t closed the door on working with the label giants in the future. “I will work with anyone who treats artists fairly and righteous. They do that , I will partner with them in bringing music to life. I will redesign the whole process.”

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Former Louisville Cop Brett Hankison Charged, But Not For Killing Breonna Taylor

Former and current officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove, were facing potential indictments for killing Breonna Taylor, but only one was charged in connection with the case, Louisville Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced on Wednesday (Sept. 23).

The grand jury opted to indict Hankison, who was fired from the department in June, on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree for firing recklessly and endangering neighbors on the night of Taylor’s murder. Hankison was not charged for her death. If convicted on all three charges, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Cameron stated that he spoke with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer ahead of the announcement. He called the 26-year-old emergency room tech’s death a “tragedy,” before revealing “facts” in the case, which concluded that all of the officers acted lawfully.

“There was no video or body camera footage of the officers’ attempted execution of a search warrant at Ms. Taylor’s residence. Video footage begins at the point that area patrol officers arrive at the location. And therefore, the sequence of events from March 13th had to be pieced together through ballistics evidence, 911 calls, police radio traffic, and interviews,” said Cameron, who denied that police were executing a no-knock warrant in the early morning hours of March 13. Louisville moved to ban no-nock warrant’s after Taylor’s death.

Mattingly, Cosgrove and Hankison were called on as “extra personnel” during the raid on Taylor’s home, and only had information that was “conveyed” during a prior briefing, according to Cameron. Another unnamed officer filed the warrant.

“Evidence shows that officers both knocked and announced their presence at the apartment. The officer’s statement about their announcement are corroborated by an independent witness who was near in proximity to [Taylor’s apartment],” continued Cameron. “In other words, the warrant was no served as a ‘no-knock warrant.’ When officers were unable to get anyone to answer or open the door the decision was made to breach the door.”

Mattingly was the “first and only officer” to enter the residence, where he saw two people (Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker), Cameron said. Both Taylor and Walker were unaware that police were raiding the residence and were sleeping prior to being woken up by the commotion. Mattingly observed Walker in a “shooting stance” and was shot in the upper thigh, Cameron said.

“Seargent Mattingly returned fire down the hallway. Mattingly fired six shots. Almost simultaneously, Detective Cosgrove also in the doorway, shot 16 times. This all took place in a matter of seconds,” Cameron said. “In total, six bullets struck Ms. Taylor. Medical evidence obtained by our team indicates that only one shot was fatal.” Cameron added that Crossgrove fired the fatal shot and that Taylor died within seconds. However, Walker told authorities that Taylor struggled to breathe for at least five minutes. She went untreated for more than 20 minutes.

“I think it is worth repeating again our investigation found that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their use of force after having been fired upon by Kenneth Walker,” Cameron reiterated.

Cameron does not plan to release the grand jury indictment. When asked about the racial breakdown of his team he replied, “Well I’m Black. And I speak for the entire department.”

Benjamin Crump, one of the attorney’s representing Taylor’s family called the charges “outrageous and offensive to her memory.” Read his full statement below.

Today’s indictment is outrageous and offensive to Breonna Taylor’s memory, yet another example of no accountability for police. Full statement: (1 of 2) pic.twitter.com/pmurOrV5My

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) September 23, 2020

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